September 14, 2012

On Character Emulation, Katniss, and Hair.

Last weekend, I saw a girl, about ten years old, with a Katniss braid.

Hunger Games fans, you know what I’m talking about: the french braid that starts at the top left, snakes down the back of her head, and ends in a regular braid underneath her right ear.

Other than looking really really cool, it was a relatively practical style for a character who’s supposed to be fighting for her life. The girl I saw, however, looked quite timid for one who has obviously at least watched the movie, and I would hope read the book, about an incredibly strong-willed young adult. It made me wonder about this little girl. Was she really as frail and tentative as she seemed? Did she hope that emulating Katniss would make her stronger? Or was she really a little powerhouse, and saw some of Katniss in herself?

I never spoke to her, and so I’ll never know the answer, but it got me to wondering about character emulation. I feel Katniss is a great heroine: she’s authentic; she’s confused, just like the rest of us; her heart is in the right place; and she’s a fighter. She’s an honest, real-life girl for others to look up to.

Not to sound like an old fogey, but I think this is something particularly needed today. (Okay, I do sound old *on my rocking chair on the front porch with my bifocals, grumbling about this newfangled thing called internet* I’m in my twenties, I swear!) When teen moms are paraded around daytime cable and Britney Spears gets to determine the fate of others (really, The X Factor, really?), us girls could use a role model or two who has their heart in the right place.

I remember when I was that little girl’s age, I had some incredible fiction to inspire me. My mother–she’s awesome–always facilitated trips to the library whenever requested, and I inhaled so many books that make me the woman I am today.

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, whose Meg character was so self-conscious and unsure. I read that the year before I got my own horrid glasses, when my hair was also a large, tangled bush of unattractive, and I felt that I would never grow up looking human. She showed me what it meant to try something new and terrifying, and taught me that adolescence is a stage and not a permanent state of being.

Sharon Creech, my favorite author of my childhood (my copy of Walk Two Moons is so battered, the front cover hangs on by sheer will alone), showed me girls who were also just trying to sort out life. Also, she showed me that you can learn life’s truths and be quite extraordinary at the same time (Salamanca driving to see her mother one last time, or Zinnia planting her flower walk, or Sophie’s sailing trip).

Tamora Piece’s Circle of Magic quartet, my first dip into this author (soon to be followed by a resounding cannonball of immersion which I now happily repeat in my adult years), whose Sandrilene character taught me to stick my chin out and fight for the truth and the right in the world. I have gotten a lot of places in life by being honest with myself and others, even a little brash, and I know this was owed in part to seeing Sandry battle the world in the same way.

As I grew a little older, Sarah Dessen’s characters all showed me I was not the only one walking around just a little bit confused about how this life thing was supposed to be working. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have a boyfriend, or it all figured out, or that mysterious flock of artificial people in high school, and what was more was I didn’t want that. It was okay to take my own path, and through that, I found the best group of best friends a woman would ever have the privilege to know. Ten years later, they are still my closest, dearest friends, even with all of us scattered around the country. (Google+ hangouts are a magical tool.)

So, although I am much too old to pull off walking around emulating Katniss’ hair, I am never too old to walk around emulating her attitude of “keep fighting,” doing right to the best of your abilities, and taking the time to work out for yourself what that “right” is.

Do you emulate any characters?

What books of your childhood do you retain?


August 20, 2012

On Braiding.

Filed under: On Creating. — Tags: , , , , , , — amandajocrafts @ 11:45 am

This morning on the bus, a woman pulled her hair to the side of her face and began braiding it while reading a book. Her hair was thick and dark and straightened. (Having curly hair myself, I can always tell when curly hair is straighted.) My first reaction was disappointment: she had clearly spent some considerable time making her hair perfectly straight, no bumps or ridges, no frizz.

Then I thought again. The braid was beautiful too–even more so was the way in which she did it. Swept it from her neck with one stroke, firmly divided the thousands of strands into three, and while she was doing something else–while her concentration was on the book in front of her–she created something entirely new.

I can braid; I do the same thing she does. When it’s raining or humid or hot, my hair doesn’t stay trailing on the back of my neck like some woolen blanket; it goes into a braid. I guess I just never realized how graceful and commanding the act was, how skilled one had to be to change the structure of your hair in fifteen seconds. Do I look that powerful when I do it, too?

Like braiding, crocheting takes strands and makes them into a context. Any project does this: sewing, knitting, beading, felting. We are changing the very structure of these items. We have the power to alter their makeup and how people perceive them. Yarn is just yarn until you, essentially, tie it in a million knots. Then it’s craft, or art, or a blanket, or a doll. We don’t personify yarn, but we do give faces and voices and personality to a teddy bear, or an octopus, or a rabbit. We make them matter.

That’s a daring thought.

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